Interview with Piers Anthony
Like mentioned on Episode 2: On A Pale Horse, I got an opportunity to interview Mr. Anthony via email and here is the transcript from that exchange. I hope you readers enjoyed it as much as I did. He really is a brilliant man!
Hello, again, Mr. Anthony! I hope you’re doing well this day and that the Holidays and the New Year have visited you pleasantly. I’ve provided the list of questions I mentioned I would send in our last correspondence. Thank you again for agreeing to answer these for myself and the listeners.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in England, but all my education was in America, and I am a naturalized American. This gave me a certain perspective; I find it easy to identify with a foreigner or even an alien creature visiting human society.
What were you like at school? Were you good at English?
School was a problem from the start. It took me three years to make it through first grade, then I skipped second and fifth grades to catch up. When my daughter was diagnosed as dyslexic I recognized symptoms I had had, only in my day dyslexia did not exist, only stupid students. I was as stupid as they come. I was awful at English because I couldn’t make sense of verbs and nouns and was never good at rote memory. Only when I got free of conventional schooling did I prosper intellectually. As I like to put it, it has been some time since anyone other than a critic thought I was stupid.
Give us an insight into the main character, Zane, from the book we’re discussing, On A Pale Horse. What makes him so special?
Zane is special only in one way; his balance of good and evil put him in the category that required the personal attention of Death. Otherwise he is ordinary.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
My favorite part is the animation of the song “Holy, Holy, Holy”. I am agnostic, having no belief in the supernatural, but in the novel the supernatural is real and it was fun making it manifest.
What drew you into writing Fantasy?
I was a science fiction writer. But I had liked the editing of Lester del Rey and wanted to work with him. Since he was by then a fantasy editor, I wrote a fantasy novel, A Spell for Chameleon. And discovered I like fantasy, so chance was a huge factor there.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I had thought to be an artist, but concluded that I lacked the talent to make it commercially. I wanted to pursue higher mathematics, but was required to take four years of languages instead. So my main avenues had been balked. I pondered a day and a night in college, and realized that I wanted to be a writer. It was like a light turning on, and that beacon still guides me 60 years later. But I didn’t know it until that point. I did not dream of it in childhood. I think of it as being a bit like being rejected by the lovely Blonde, Brunette, and Redhead, then discovering that the mousy girl next door was the one for me, character being more important than appearance. But no, this is no reflection on my romantic life. My wife of 57 years and counting, was from far away and not mousy. But it was her support of my writing that enabled me to succeed.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
My daughter was hyperactive, so I learned to write in pencil on a clipboard, so I could drop it, literally, and catch her short of mischief. When she went to college I realized that I no longer needed to do that, and I jumped from pencil to computer. The computer is almost as versatile as the pencil, and faster.
What would you say is an interesting writing quirk of yours?
I don’t know whether it’s a quirk, but I was one of the first professional writers to do expressive author’s notes, not just lists of credits. No one liked them; reviewers lambasted them and the editor tried to chop them out of the books. There was only one category that liked them: the readers. So I am the Author’s Note author, closer to my readers than most other writers while critics continue to sneer.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
When an idea strikes me – and this can occur on a daily basis – I quickly summarize the gist in pen or pencil, then when I am at the computer I transcribe it for my voluminous Ideas file. When I need a notion, I look there. So there may be no outline, but I do like to know where the story is going before I write it. Some of those summaries get amended later, and one can expand to thousands of words. That’s the case for one I’m about to write, Neris, which is Siren spelled backwards, about a man whose mother is a normal human woman and whose father is a god of the sea. I have gotten to the point of naming the other characters, and assigning parts of it to chapters; I’m going to have to write it before it explodes. Some ideas simply will not be denied.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I’m not sure I have changed creatively over the course of my career. What has changed are my writing skills, my commercial success, and the world around me. Today with self publishing I have no fear of an idiot editor abusing or rejecting my opus, so I am free to express myself. That allows me to be more creative than ever.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
I try to read at least one book a month. I’m a slow reader, maybe a lingering aspect of the dyslexia, and reading cuts into my writing time, so it’s limited. Much of what I read is the work of aspiring authors, as I try to help them make it. I’m really no longer in touch with the authors of my generation.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I have made so many mistakes in my career that I could say a lot to my younger self, such as how to avoid getting blacklisted for telling the truth. But those sometimes bitter experiences are a significant part of what makes me what I am today, so probably I would simply say “Carry on undaunted!” and let it go at that.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Carry on undaunted!
How can readers discover more about you and your works?
Go to my www.hipiers.com web site where everything is spread out. I have a monthly blog-type column there, and an ongoing survey of electronic publishers for the benefit of aspiring authors. I have also had two autobiographies published: Bio of an Ogre and How Precious Was That While.
Anything you’d like to say to the listeners that are reading or have read On A Pale Horse?
As for On a Pale Horse: I hope you like it, and anything else of mine you read.
Also remember! Episode 3 is an interview episode with J. Paige Dunn! Tweet or email your questions to @RealmofBooks or firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, folks! Keep Calm and Read On!